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Home  > Article

Ask Buffy

By Buffy Filippell

Buffy Filippell, "godmother of sports business" and president of Teamwork Online, the first online recruiting tool for sports teams and leagues, offers career advice for Seniors & Graduates looking to break into Sports.

Dear Buffy,

It's always been my dream to work in sports. Recently, I've been trying to break into the industry, but I have yet to nail any full-time employment. I don't understand why I am having such difficulty. I promise that there's no one who knows more about sports than I do!

Sports Center Nut

Dear Sports Center Nut,

There are over 100 jobs available for people who want to sell tickets. Don't tell me you can't get a job. In order to get that job you need 1) to be a recent college graduate; 2) be a former athlete at some time ? be competitive; 3) have worked for some sports organization so you understand the hours and commitment; 4) have had some sales experience - go work at a retail store or sell pledges to your university alumni; 5) have a passion to work in the industry no matter how hard it's going to be; 6) be local ? or have a local address and place to call home so as an employer I know that you'll stay here for more than 6 months. That's not a lot of effort ? just a little bit more than most.

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

Do the teams really look at my resume...or does it just get forwarded around in a red tape of emails and papers?

Mr. Invisible

Dear Mr. Invisible,

Yes, the hiring managers work directly off of the site to view your resume. Furthermore, our Manager of Client Services contacts each of the hiring managers weekly to assist them in any way possible with the hiring search. When you submit your resume online, it is stored in our online database (as opposed to being forwarded to an email address), which the team can see at any time.

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

I've noticed a number of jobs ask if I have had X number years of experience in a certain field. Should I consider my time as an intern in that field as part of the total?

"Unsure of Experience Level"

Dear "Unsure of Experience Level,"

Yes, you can use your internship experience as work experience.

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

Can you provide some direction for applying for positions with these sports organizations if I am going to be an upcoming college grad.

2006 Grad

Dear 2006 Grad,

You can apply for a job or future notification on any of the job boards listed on the left on www.teamworkonline.com. Best to apply for jobs about 3 months before you graduate. And most graduates have at least one if not 4 sports internships before they graduate.

Buffy

Dear Buffy:

I am a recent graduate with a variety of sports media experience. I'm struggling to find the first job though. It's frustrating for an individual with a can-do attitude and well-roundedness. I've used several of the tips and resume and networking letters, but I admit, I need help. I am continuing my athletic career by training for beach volleyball right now, but I am looking for sports career ideally in Chicago. I would be very grateful for any advice you may have. I enclosed my resume for your review. If you have any suggestions as to where I should direct my search, I would appreciate your input and advice. Thank You.

Recent Grad in Chicago

Dear Recent Grad:

Your best opportunity would be with a minor league, such as Arena Football, ECHL, PCL or teams like that. Try looking at the websites of minor league sports teams for a media relations coordinator or assistant position, or even try a public relations agency, sports event where you can do some media promotion just to get experience. Good luck. With a can-do attitude, you will be able to prevail!

Buffy

I'm looking for employment with the NBA, NDBL, or NCAA. I'm trying to stay close to my passion, which is basketball. I want I career in something I enjoy, love, and never get bored with. Most people work a job they do not like for years. However, I want to work at a job where I will never have a feel for chance. Please help me, and please give me feedback on how one can obtain this job.

To Be Basketball Employee

Dear Future Basketball Employee:

The best answer I can provide is to give you some excerpts from my speech at George Washington University's 2nd annual SEME Conference.

"Marketing is creating a need where one doesn't exist. Sophisticated marketing consultants or business consultants will advise you that before you "go to market" you must get the product properly prepared, packaged, and develop a great distribution system where people can sample the product, the product is accessible and easy to purchase.

1. Make the ingredients great. Many of the students coming out of college today have had more than one sports internships. How do you get them? 1) Apply online. TeamWork Online has tons of internships and on average 67% of the time the employers hire applicants who applied online! 2) Go to sports team offices/ small sports marketing agencies and meet with their Human Resources directors. 3) Call the Directors of Ticket Sales and ask if you could help. Or be the first person waiting at the front door of the offices and walk in with the Team President. And don't call and ask someone to call you back. You call them back.

2. Packaging. Do you ever see a Campbell's soup can plain silver? Was it just one of those days the product manager forgot to put a red and white label on the can? Why do you do that? Start getting into the habit of looking more presentable. You don't know who you will meet and how you present your package is your marketing.

3. And now "Distribution". Most people meet someone once and then they never stay in touch with them again. Many people might say hello to me here, but it will be the person to keeps in touch - an email once every 3 months - that's the person who I will noticed - almost over and above some of the others, no matter what their skill! Start creating a list of your distributors - who is going to be looking out for you? Keep in touch with them regularly, telling them what you have been doing. Make sure you meet new people and add them to your list. How about a file of everyone you meet from your freshman year to your senior year? You have email. You have phones. Use them. Keep meeting people.

If you have all of these, then... you don't need any marketing......look at Starbuck's. With a great product, good ambience, and shops on every corner, you don't need to market. People are ready for you.

Buffy

Hi, Buffy,

I just had a question. When a team holds a job fair and wants applicants to attend and pay for admittance to the game that night is that team really serious about the fair or is it some kind of a scam??? For example, a particular team that I'm VERY interested in is holding a career fair and want to charge a fee for the fair (which includes admission to the game that night). I'm more than willing to pay that and to travel out of state on short notice (if I know they are serious) b/c I know that it will probably increase my chances in employment with them....OR should I just apply online for the open positions they have available and hope that they call (even though that I know that I'm at a disadvantage being out of state).

Thanks Buffy in advance for any help you can give.

Hopeful job finder

Dear "Hopeful,"

When teams organize a career fair, they typically schedule them around an event. Often the cost of coming to a career fair is one of their lowest priced tickets, and sometimes a discounted one. That helps them promote their team. Nevertheless, organizers of these career fairs will bring in other groups for you to meet who also have jobs. If the career fair is within a reasonable driving distance, or organized by an organization for which you really want to work, it is worth your while to make the trip to be able to meet those executives and get your face and experience in front of them.

Job fairs that are "by invitation only" are traditionally the ones in which actual hiring will take place with those teams at that time or shortly thereafter, and are usually organized by the league. Those are certainly the best ones and well worth applying for.

Again, for entry-level jobs, most organizations do not want to interview out-of-towners. If you really want to make yourself known to a specific organization, I strongly encourage a face-to-face encounter at a career fair.

Buffy

Buffy,

I am currently an associate at an investment firm in New York but am interested in switching career paths and pursuing a role in baseball, specifically something in baseball operations or administration. What advice can you give me on how best to break into a business in which I have no specific experience (although I would argue that the experience and skills I have gained from working at an investment banking firm for the past 5+ years prepares me well for any role). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank and I hope to hear from you.

Investment Banker

Dear Investment Banker,

My advice to anyone changing careers is to 1) do some informational interviews with people in sports; 2) consider taking a class perhaps at NYU in sports marketing or 3) networking is the only way you'll make the change as the resume will not match up versus others already in the industry where there are more applicants with skills in sports than jobs open.

Hope that helps.

Buffy

The reason I'm contacting you is I have decided to make a career change. I am a sales professional with a proven history of selling large-ticket (i.e. multi-million dollar contracts at the Senior Executive level) to Fortune 1000 corporations.

I'm confident my successful sales/business experience and marketing background, combined with my passion for motor sports, could be a very valuable asset to help a major motorsports team secure future corporate sponsorships to improve their competitive position.

I would like the opportunity to talk with you directly to pursue this topic. When would be the most convenient time for us to schedule an initial phone conversation?

I'm looking forward to talking with you and will thank you in advance for your time. Take care.

Sincerely,

Strong sales career changer

Dear Career Changer:

As the job market is very tight these days, my counsel to anyone whose resume does not have any sports industry experience and wants to get in is the same as it would be to anyone who is making a distinct career change from one industry to another. To make a career change, either into our industry or a different one from where you have been, you have two options: 1) Go back to graduate school and take up that subject (sports administration) as a major or 2) use all your contacts in the industry in which you wish to pursue, try to do some informational interviews with people in the industry, and then use your contacts to get you in. If your resume is not going to match what the employer wants, you need to use other measures.

Hope that is helpful.

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

When applying to a league, is the type of institution one attends more important than one's experience and qualifications?

For example, a student fresh out of Harvard with a MBA oppose to a student who has served in several basketball positions on the collegiate and professional level. Which one would have the advantage?

And does it boil down to what you know and whom you know?

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

1) The online job boards have proven that it isn't who you know but what you know - up to 55% of the jobs are filled by online candidates versus 20% referral on the league job boards.

2) If you have had solid sales experience, you'll have the advantage over a Harvard MBA. We are seeing Harvard MBAs though with previous strong sports experience and that will certainly have an edge, but they have to accept the same level salary of someone without an MBA to get in.

Buffy

Hi Buffy,

I am female who has been apart of the sport industry for numerous years. Looking for the sport job has been very difficult, either you know someone or get a big break. Could you please advise me on how to stay focus without losing sight of working in the sport industry as a female?

A woman trying to break in

Dear Woman Trying to Break In,

I'm a woman, too, who has been involved in the sports industry now for 25 years. Let's see, I got my first break by challenging a letter of rejection with Wilson Sporting Goods to get a second interview which turned into 2 job offers, parlayed that experience by befriending every kid tennis player and their parents which led to becoming an agent with IMG. When I got married and moved back to the US after a year's absence, I then joined the ranks of executive recruiting and focused on creating a role in sports executive recruiting and snared my first client - the Women's Tennis Association for Korn/Ferry International. Two years later, my father died and concurrently I was fired. I then started my own business and have been successful thereafter for the last 15 years. A smattering of our accomplishments can be found by pressing the TeamWork Consulting button on the left. I've never thought that I deserve anything except what I can create through doing great work, being honest, being a good friend and wanting to be "a player" in spite of any odds. Does that give you hope?

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

I am from Brazil and I would like to ask you a couple of questions?

I have a considerable sports background (9 years) as a professional basketball player (Brazil & Europe)and marketing (HSBC Bank Brasil).I'm planning to apply for a MBA degree with emphasis in sports management/marketing next year.

-Which program/business school would you advise me to apply for considering that I plan to work inside the sports industry after receiving my MBA degree?

I have two names in mind (UCLA and Indiana U.) Are there better options?

Thank you very much and I appreciate your attention.

Foreign Student

Dear Foreign Student,

As a member of the Board of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, it is hard for me to recommend another university. Nevertheless, there are a few other graduate business schools which may also be interesting to you, and please forgive me if I leave out some others. Obviously Harvard Business School is outstanding and they do support a sports marketing group, as does Duke University, Stanford, Kellogg School of Business (Northwestern), and Arizona State. UCLA and USC also have had, if not currently support, sports marketing programs. Then there are top notch sports management graduate programs, particularly University of Massachusetts and Ohio University, just to name the obvious ones. So many of the better business schools have some programs that support the field, and you should try to find out who are their graduates in sports management and what programs support sports management.

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

What are the qualifications sports employers seek when looking at entry level executives?

A professor to sport management undergraduates

Dear Professor,

These are five strong traits that employers in sport seek.

The person has to 1) have an enthusiasm for his/her life and respect for himself/herself. We like to be around people who possess a genuine enjoyment to life and an interest in improving themselves; 2) present himself/herself in a professional manner both in their appearance and in their writing...dress well and write and speak properly; 3) be focused on how he/she can better our business rather than focus on what our business can do for him/her. To paraphrase John Kennedy, "ask not what your business can do for you but what you can do for the business." 4) have the ability to create strong relationships. Marketing is creating a need where there isn't one. I like entry level executives to create a need for himself/herself as a fellow employee and colleague. We are looking for good, hard-working teammates. 5) take direction well. Entry level executives need to be able to follow instructions, work efficiently and communicate clearly. Communicating through emails is a poor excuse for communicating. We value executives being able to speak to someone face-to-face, look them in the eye and complete work in a better than timely fashion.

Buffy

Hi Buffy:

I am continuously inquiring of opportunities within the sports industry. Just recently, I heard that an opening, and I immediately tried to contact the hiring staff. I first sent an email along with my resume. I then tried to phone and left a message. Shortly afterwards I sent a cover letter, resume, and a couple of writing samples to the hiring staff. Two days later I received a general response by the director saying that they will contact if there is a possibility for an interview.

I am wondering if there is more I should do to show my interest in this position. I do feel that I am qualified, but I do understand that many resumes are coming in along with my own. It has now been nearly two weeks since the first response.

Should I do more to get noticed?

Thanks for your time.

Trying to get noticed

Dear "Trying to get noticed,"

In order to get noticed for a job, I have seen people send size 11 basketball shoes with notes attached, "Trying to get my foot in the door." I have had people send me a box filled with so much information, I felt sorry for the postman who broke his arms trying to deliver it to me.

How do people get hired? When working with hiring managers from the National Hockey League, for example, on sorting through candidates who have applied online, the first issue is:

1. "Does the applicant have the right skill and years of experience I seek?" If a team is seeking someone with 2-5 years of sponsorship sales experience and you have sold advertisements for your college program for six months, then your chances for getting that job are not strong no matter how many shoes you send. So, make sure your skills and years of experience match what the organization needs.

2. If your skills and years of experience match, then often location plays a role. If you are located out-of-town, the applicants who have the skill and experience who are in-town will most likely be interviewed first. I've worked with hiring managers who have had to send out an email explaining that they are not going to pay neither interview expenses nor relocation expenses and asked if the applicant is still interested. In all cases they respond onto their application "yes." So, on a cover letter you might want to say that you will pay for interview expenses and relocation expenses.

3. The text in the cover letter is important. On the space for your cover letter, make a compelling case why you fit the description, agree to pay for relocation expenses and interview expenses and you have better skills than any other. Check your spelling and grammar. I can't tell you how many emails I read where I would remove a candidate merely because they demonstrate how sloppy they are in their correspondence.

4. Make sure your application is complete. Online to check your application, click "edit your information" and put in your email and address. Often people are not getting jobs is that their application is incomplete.

5. Follow up by email once or twice a week if you have the address in a polite but persistent way but NEVER ask anyone to call you back. You can leave your number, but always state a time that you will follow up.

6. Allow the human resources or hiring manager time. There are so many applicants to jobs these days, allow for about 30 - 45 days to be notified, and make sure you keep your computer handy. The turn-around response time could be short.

Good luck,

Buffy

Hi Buffy:

I want to thank you for your helpful responses to the many questions posed to you regarding sports careers.

How do I set up informational interviews with sports teams? I have an idea of the department I would like to be involved in, but I want to better network myself into the sports atmosphere.

So I guess my question is - would informational interviews be helpful to further inquire about sports positions, and how best should I inquire about setting one up?

Thanks for your time.

Wanting to join the team

Dear "Wanting to join the team,"

Great question. Informational interviews are a great way to make contact with people in the sports industry.

I would suggest you work on those organizations that are in your area, including teams and small agencies. Call the head of sales - for a team, for example - it might be the Director of Ticket Sales. And then call the head of public relations. Ask if you could have 15 minutes of their time to ask them questions about their job and how they got there. Make sure you have your questions all written down before you go. The impression you make interviewing the people will be the impression they have of you potentially as a fellow employee.

I also suggest that you not leave them with a resume, but rather ask, in the informational interview what jobs typically become open, when, do they advertise or post a job and how is the recruiting handled, by the head of human resources or the hiring manager. Most teams will advise you that jobs open typically at the end of a season; thus, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer would hire around October or November. If this the correct procedure, send a note and resume to the head of human resources and a thank you note to the person you interviewed. If they are part of our Job Boards, positions will be posted. Or, check their websites often for any other job postings.

Buffy

Hi Buffy,

I am a licensed minister of the gospel, as well as a knowledgeable sports person. I am very interested in becoming a Professional Sports Chaplain. I know these positions exist, but how do I find out more about this area and which teams I should contact? Please shed some light on this for me. Thanks in advance.

Peace.

Chaplain

Dear Chaplain,

The best Professional Sports Chaplain with whom I am familiar is "Father Phil", otherwise known as Rev. Philip De Rea. Perhaps he can help you. He is the chaplain on the CART series. He can be reached through Missionary Vehicle Association/1400 Michigan Avenue, N.E./Washington, DC 20017; or by calling 202/635-3444 or email: mivamerica@aol.com. He is an outstanding man and has helped many drivers, sponsors, and families in need.

Buffy

Buffy,

I recently graduated from a University this spring with a major in management and a concentration in marketing. I have always been interested in sports and would love to get involved with a career in sports management or related fields. Since the economy has started to slow down and not having the 1-3 years of experience that every company asks for, how should I approach theses teams so they will consider me. I am from Minnesota and have sent my resume and cover letter to the (MN)Timberwolves as instructed to do on their website. I feel that they don't even look at my information. I know in this industry it's who you know and not what you know in getting into this industry. Please help, advise would be much appreciated.

Not "In the Know"

Dear "Not",

We are trying so hard to not have "who you know" be how people are getting hired in the sports business; rather, they are hired by their skills. I suggest you try to get an internship with a team in your home town or where you went to college. In the internship make sure that you gain a skill in an internship, such as ticket sales or client services, something that could provide you a skill so that you can get your first entry level job. I strongly suggest ticket sales. So, apply online for an internship and hope to get ticket sales experience. With success, you ought to never "need to get a job."

Buffy

I have a 7-year background in sports. I have held several positions including the most recent as head of minor league women's basketball team. Unfortunately because of my husband's career as a lawyer, I am not that mobile. It has been a challenge finding employment. What can I do to make myself more marketable?

Needing Direction

Dear Needing Direction,

It seems as though you've ascended to a great role of general management skills which you ought to be able to parlay into other jobs needing general management locally. When we searched for a head of an NHRA track not long ago, we recruited someone who had General Management experience in minor league baseball. So, switching from one sport to another should work. General management/Live event management is great for running events whether they are charitable or for-profit. Sports Commissions are good networking centers as they are often bidding to bring events into town and need people to run them. Don't forget public facilities, recreational centers and the like. Running a professional sports qualifies you for a lot of other roles in running a business. Market yourself as such. Good luck.

Buffy

Buffy,

I am writing to you in the hopes that you can give me some advice. I have a degree in Kinesiology and am having a hard time finding a job within my field. I realize that I may have needed to further my education in order to obtain a job that I enjoy, but am curious to know how hard it is for women to find jobs in the sports arena. I have always been around sports and would really like the opportunity to work in the sport industry. I am constantly seeing men in the forefront of the field and want to know if there is much hope for women to some day be there. I find that I am becoming very discouraged and don't really know where to look anymore. Any information you can give me that would lead me in the right direction would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Woman Wanting to be in Sports

Dear Woman Wanting to be in Sports,

There are many more opportunities for women to serve in sports positions today than there were when I started in the industry 25 years ago. In fact, I was the first woman tennis agent for IMG in 1978 and there was only one other "executive" woman in the company, then. It was noticeable that there were not many women in sports, but it never stopped me from getting a job!

The most obvious opportunities for women are around women sports - The WNBA, the new Women's Soccer League, Ladies Professional Golf Association, Women's Tennis Association, and all the national governing bodies. Women are serving in all sorts of roles on both the player side and the business operations side. Women in business operations tend to gravitate towards roles in public relations, event management, and client services, whether it is for an agency, team or special event.

One of the best networking groups with whom I've been involved for a number of years is the Women's Sports Foundation (http://womenssportsfoundation.org). They have local leaders in major cities that are involved in a wide range of women's sports both professionally and recreationally. Local city sports commissions are also a good networking tool for local sports business opportunities. To get a listing of the one in your area write to National Association of Sports Commissions, 2368 Victory Parkway, Suite 401, Cincinnati, OH 45206 or call 513.281.3888 or fax 513.281.1765.

Besides focusing on women's sports, there are plenty of women working with men around men's professional sports (i.e. my partner, Jennifer Proud Mearns, featured here who worked in men's tennis and with World Cup sponsors; or Joann Klonowski, a former featured executive on these pages who serves as head of marketing for the XFL Championship team, LA Xtreme).

You need to convince an employer with an opening that you are the best for it, work hard to develop that needed skill for the job/company and continue to hone that skill until the employer can trust you to do more. Students coming out of school are generally going to be skilled in either servicing (detailed-oriented) or sales, or have had specific training in media relations, athletic training, etc. Presenting yourself as eager, anxious, willing to learn, willing to work long hours, willing to be "coached" and looking at life's struggles as opportunities will serve anyone, male or female, well in this industry. We like competitors - people who don't give up. And we will test that resolve, daily. Through the respect and drive you have in yourself, you create the respect you will receive. You create your own opportunities. Good luck.

Buffy

Dear Buffy,

It has always been a dream of mine to work professionally for a sports Team. I am currently a successful Business Development Officer for a technology company. My field of interest and expertise is e-commerce and e-CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Would my background be a match for this industry?

Technology Business Development Officer

Dear Technology Business Development Officer,

Albeit the sports industry generally tends to hire people who are skilled within sports, we are also open to hire outstandingly skilled executives who provide a skill not normally found in our industry.

With more and more need for skilled technology people to help in developing network system, ticketing systems, websites, emailing, customer relationship databases, there are more and more opportunities open to someone with a technology background. As in any early development of these roles, the teams and leagues are hiring a few technology executives, but it seems as though your background in business development might be best served working for technology companies selling to and servicing sports teams and leagues. There are many who are "vendors" of professional teams and leagues who provide emailing programs, website hosting and development, "electronic" holiday cards to drive sales, e-commerce, and more.

To get the most up-to-date list of those companies, I suggest you contact the league's dot-com division (each league's website has a President or general manager of their internet site) and ask for a list of vendors. NHL and NBA had technology fairs at their marketing meetings where many of these vendors demonstrated their wares. And with your skill in Business Development, you ought to be able to develop more services for the sports industry and sports fans!

Buffy

Buffy G. Filippell founded TeamWork Consulting, Inc., an executive search firm for the sports and event management industry in September of 1987. The firm's more than 120 clients have included, among others, NASCAR, PGA TOUR, almost all the major leagues - NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS - twelve NFL teams, eleven NHL teams, twelve NBA teams, nine MLB teams - CART, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, International Speedway Corporation, Major League Soccer, Olympic Governing Bodies, corporate sponsors, and sports marketing agencies. In 1999, she also developed the first online employment recruiting tool for sports teams and leagues ? TeamWork Online.







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